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Pregnancy Health A-Z: Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) Or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD)

Struggling with pelvic pain now you’re expecting your baby? Understand the symptoms, causes and treatments so you can start to ease discomfort

What is it?

A painful pelvic condition that affects around one in five pregnant women. It’s caused by joints in the pelvis moving asymmetrically as well as weakness of the muscles around that area. It can be known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), but generally pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is the widely accepted umbrella term that covers all pain in the pelvic area.

‘There’s a belief that PGP occurs more often in mums-to-be because the hormone relaxin is released during pregnancy, which softens the ligaments and muscles around the pelvis so there’s more movement,’ says physiotherapist Paula Igualada-Martinez.

‘But in fact if you have PGP, it’s likely pregnancy has just made some dysfunction in your pelvis that was already there worse,' she explains.

It’s caused by joints in the pelvis moving asymmetrically as well as weakness of the muscles around that area

PGP’s more likely to flare up if you have a history of back pain, are overweight, have had a fall or pelvis injury, don’t sit properly at your desk (read: slouch and cross your legs) or are a second-time mum – if you suffered with it in your first pregnancy, unfortunately you may find it’s worse in your second.

What are the symptoms?

Pain, and sometimes a clicking or grinding sensation in the pelvic area. You may find it difficult walking and it can be extra painful during sex or when you place all your weight on one leg.

What can you do?

Treatment varies, but often a combination of different things helps. ‘A physio may use manual therapy to mobilise your joints – basically you lie on your side while he or she manipulates the joints to alleviate any pain,’ says Paula. ‘He may also prescribe stability exercises and stretches, and give you general advice about posture.’

Special belts and tubigrips can also be used to support you, and exercise in water can help strengthen the muscles around the pelvis and ease pain.

‘In most cases, pelvic pain eases or disappears after your baby’s born, but it’s still important to have a follow-up appointment to check your joints and muscles,’ advises Paula.

See your GP if…

You’re feeling pain in your pelvis. That way, he or she can refer you to a physio to assess you for PGP.

Have you experienced PGP or SPD? Let us know how your managed the symptoms in the comments box below.

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